I was watching the game between Liverpool and Manchester City and wondering who would end up as champions.

And it put me in mind of this quote, which I first read in the One-minute Manager I believe -“Feedback Is the Breakfast of Champions”.  In an industry that is overburdened from feedback from all sides, I pondered on feedback, stats and indices and thought about how you distinguish the good from the bad.

Accounts, composite and all sorts of other figures are very detailed, providing all sorts of information, to ratios and you’ve guessed it, feedback to managers.  But is the information they contain really that useful? We all know that statistically there might be a correlation with the size of the tiles in the workshop and the number of used hybrids you sell, a relationship between the number of coffee cups in the waiting room and your service lead times, but is it relevant?

You see for feedback to be useful, it has to be used logically and responsibly.  Take a classic use of statistics and feedback that most people know about and have an opinion about — “the long ball game”.  A phenomenon that took over football about 30 years ago.

Someone sat down and statistically analysed all the televised first-class games over the previous decade.  Apart from the observation that he clearly loved sport and he had nothing better to do, he produced one fascinating statistic.  Analysing all those games, most goals were scored when the attacking team touched the ball only two or three times. In other words, over a period of 10 years the direct route was the most effective.

His findings were actually incontrovertible.  Nobody doubted that his observations were accurate.  But forgetting the adage that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, it was then used to prove something completely different — if you hoof the ball up the field at every conceivable opportunity, then you are more likely to score goals than if you pass it between you and try and work openings.

Sadly this did two things, it made football almost unwatchable for a while, and after some limited success with this theory, most managers gave it up quite quickly when it proved not to be as effective as first thought.

So when someone shows you a stat that a different coloured tile in the workshop ups your recovery rate, ask why that is? If they say Colombian coffee increases sales, question the link.

There might be a correlation but does one cause the other? Think about it over Breakfast one day.

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